Sometimes great feats aren’t always given the credit they deserve. At least that’s how Estes Park football fans are feeling, as the Bobcat Varsity team was edged out of the Division 1A Colorado State playoffs due to what some are calling a faulty ranking algorithm.
Estes Park played their last game against Flat Irons Academy on Saturday, Oct. 29, where they suffered a 34-8 loss. After the Bison team scored 27 unanswered points in the first half, Head Coach Aaron Carlson said the Bobcat team just couldn’t get back into the game.
“Sometimes what happens with teams like ours that have been down for so long is they play the jersey rather than the team,” Carlson expressed. “Flat Irons has beaten us for the last 10 or 12 years and so that was just kind of in their mind. Having the prior week off helped us injury-wise, but we just weren’t very sharp to start the game.”
Despite this loss, the Bobcats still finished second in the Division 1A League 6 rankings at 7-2 overall, a record that Estes Park hasn’t achieved in more than a decade. However, when it came time to determine playoff seeds, the record didn’t matter, only the level of teams they were playing.
As Carlson explained, Colorado State playoffs work through an algorithm determined by the Colorado High school Activities Association(CHSAA) rating percentage index(RPI) and Max Preps rankings. Playoffs consist of 16 teams – Estes Park was ranked 16 by CHSAA but only 19 by Max Preps. Once these rankings were averaged together and a few tiebreakers were determined, the Bobcats wound up with the latter 19 seed.
This same algorithm led to the Division 1A League 4 sending all six of its teams to the playoffs, including a team that finished 2-7 with zero league wins.
Carlson wasn’t so fast to play the blame game, however, saying, “I think most of the time the algorithm actually works, but there are some years like this one where there was a couple of teams with the most wins who didn’t make it. In past years if you’re five and four or six and three, you usually make the playoffs. This was just a strange year where a seven-win team didn’t make it and a two-win team did.”
Carlson also mentioned that Estes only played nine games while bigger schools in their division played 10. One solution to this problem that Carlson touched on is having a 32-team playoff bracket.
“If some teams can’t or don’t want to participate due to injuries or travel issues, then some teams get a first-round bye,” Carlson said. “That would allow us, on a year like this, when we’re trying to build a program and encourage kids to succeed, for that success to pay off. This year it didn’t.”
Carlson elaborated on this point, saying that it doesn’t help the program grow and get more kids involved when they do have a successful year and don’t see a playoff birth.
Taking in Carlson’s fair point of view held on how things shook out, some community members feel the Bobcat team has been robbed.
One Facebook post took note of the team’s outstanding season. Pointing out division-topping stats and saying that the players were cheated by the algorithm, and calling for it to be altered, so things like this don’t happen again.
Whichever side of the fence people land on with this unfortunate turnout, certain Estes Park players are still being honored for their efforts. Carlson noted that six players earned all-conference selections, with four earning honorable mentions. These players will be announced once names are given.